Thursday, December 6, 2012

Discouraging Detours

We all like to think of our lives as being somewhat mapped out.  We chart our courses, make our plans, and hope to cheerfully arrive at our desired destinations after diligently working to stick to the directions laid out before us.  But sometimes, even without our realizing it, we end up on detours.  Most of us don't like detours--they are an annoyance.  When we come upon one in the literal sense, we usually grimace because they are typically unplanned, they are usually not simple or short, and we are faced with being late to our destination.  Detours throw a kink in our plans.  On top of all that, we feel our time is being wasted because the recommended, typical, and desired path is blocked, and we are forced to go distances we really don't want to go.

We end up on metaphorical detours in life, as well--chosen and unchosen.  Sometimes we purposefully take detours--maybe we are struggling to make a decision about something, so in an attempt to buy more time for ourselves, we lolly-gag around in avoidance, and waste time off the path on which we really need to be driving in order to arrive at our unique, particular destination (or worse, we aren't really that focused or driven to achieve it in the first place).  Other times, we find ourselves on a detour when we thought all along that we were on the main path toward our desired goal.  These are the tough ones--they can actually be pretty devastating.  We feel lost.  When we put our heart and soul into a plan, and find that our time was wasted and we got no closer to our desired destination, it is stifling to the spirit, to our vision, and to our hope. It just isn't fun or encouraging to face the reality that we've been driving around aimlessly on some dirt road when we've worked our tails off thinking we were on the straight and narrow turnpike working toward an ambitious venture with purpose.  And it is even less fun when others with whom we are working aren't truly focused or driven to achieve the goal and they force us to take detours with them without our approval.

So what do we do on an unwanted detour when we realize we are on one?  In the literal sense, we typically sigh and forge ahead to get ourselves back on the appropriate course to head toward our initial destination.  We try to keep our cool, rely on our determined focus, and revamp our time in accordance with the change of plans.  Maybe we even try to enjoy and appreciate the change of scenery, though this is not likely for those like me who would prefer to choose to enjoy a change of scenery at a more appropriate time (not have it forced upon them)!  For detours of the metaphorical nature, we need to do the same thing, but it is more excruciating and difficult for sure.  Detours of the metaphorical type affect much more important things in life than just adding a few minutes to our day.  They require an entire reassessment of our life, our plans, and at times, even our purpose.  They aren't typically just a few miles and we typically lose stuff that we've worked toward at the end of it all.  When we realize we've been on one of this kind, we've usually put some miles on the odometer, and we aren't pleased to face that we now have depreciated value or wear and tear from the journey!  Sometimes we find that we not only have been on a detour, but our particular detour wasn't even heading us in the right direction.  We've gone backwards and are farther from our destination. So then there is that issue of added grief with which to deal. 

I have recently found myself on such a detour.  Pouring my heart out to God, He reminded me of that timelessly true Scripture verse, Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  That verse has sustained me in many times of struggle, frustration, and when my perseverance, endurance, and hope are being severely tested.  God also showed me that when we choose to put ourselves on a detour due to disobedience, lack of focus or vision, or indecisiveness, we pay for that.  That is of our own choice and doing.  But when we are taken on one unknowingly, against our will, and have our time and energy stolen from us (time that He alone gives and should direct), God makes this right--it wasn't our fault.  He doesn't like it when we are deceived, blocked, tricked, used, or taken down detours that aren't in His will, either.  He doesn't like it when others aren't honest, do not stick to plans, or do not keep their commitments.  He doesn't like time-wasters.  He is as frustrated with them as we are.  God honors people who keep their word and do right by others.  He blesses those who are steadfast in their deeds and actions, are committed to purposes in life, are committed to others, and who help others achieve and head down paths that are fruitful for them.  He is pleased when our time is orderly because He is a God of both time and order.  He is also a planner--much planning went into the order of the universe, and all truly great things come out of thoughtful, extensive, creative planning.  All truly great things come from sticking to such plans, as well.  We can plan all we want in life, but if we never commit to any of those plans, we might as well lie on the couch with a bag of potato chips and call it a day.  If we have found ourselves on detours that we were dragged down blindly, we can rest assured that God will right the wrong.  We can also rest assured that He will bring purpose and meaning to that unwanted journey, even if we don't see much initially.  He has a way of blessing us on those undesired detours and will shed light, in time, on things we cannot see.  He can also speed up our later journeys to make up for the time we lost being taken on an unwanted detour.  God is faithful and He can be trusted with our plans, time, and life's journey. 

I also believe wholeheartedly that God uses detours in accordance with His will.  Maybe He was protecting us from something else.  Perhaps He was growing us in some area for a bigger and much better purpose down the proper road (our main, toll road of life).  Maybe He had to "buy time" Himself so that He could align us with something or someone who wouldn't be driving along our desired path at the right time if He hadn't detoured us for that later, bigger purpose.  We also meet lots of interesting people on detours and at intersections along the way--people who feed and bless us, and maybe that was the whole point.  We also must remember that we all face delays and obstacles whenever we are seeking to arrive at a great destination.  Nothing really good or noble ever comes easily, and we all know God loves to test our faith (trust), our patience, and our endurance.  In fact, I am convinced that those are the three most frequent tests we all have in life (well, you could easily add tests of "love" to the mix, too)!  But we can rest assured that God always puts His children on the right path when they are truly seeking His will and His destination for them.  If we are seeking our own will and our own destination, and either of those are not in line with His ultimate desire for us or are in conflict with His will, we are bound to end up on many detours.  If we are His children, He isn't going to put us on the toll road of life if we are we're headed in the wrong direction.  He'll use detours to get us in line again.  Sometimes it feels as though God is like "Suri," the annoying lady on our iPhones, restating to us that we aren't following the perfect directions given, and that our plans are now going to be recalculated and remapped!  But most of the time, I believe detours are God-ordained.  He uses them and they aren't always a bad thing.  

The main thing God has shown me the past couple of days as I face yet another detour, is that He wants nothing more than for me to arrive at my goals, desires, and proper destinations in a timely fashion.  He isn't trying to be my arch nemesis or my adversary by allowing detours in my life.  He isn't trying to stifle and constrict me--even if other people are allowed time and space to do so temporarily.  He wants the best for me and for my life--His best.  He also knows intimately my desires and dreams.  He knows my afflictions and passions, and He isn't avoiding me.   So I pray--hard.  I persist with much endurance and perseverance.  First, I pray for God to remove any desires in my heart for things not in accordance with His perfect will for my life.  I make it clearly known to Him that I want Him to give me the desire for only what He wants for my life--this includes my plans, goals, and other people (because people can drain our time and energy, and can keep us on detours in dirt-road bondage causing us to spin our wheels incessantly and preventing us from accomplishing anything). Other people can also piously try to make their own goals and destination become our goals and destination, when that is not our charted path or journey--God hates that, and He alone will decide.  Secondly, I ask Him to give me wisdom, patience, endurance, and strength to chart my new map and my new plan in order to get myself on the right road headed in the right direction.  This includes bringing the right people into my life to help me along my path--my true, destined sojourners.  Third, I ask Him to bring discernment, peace, and understanding to my life as I seek to protect myself from further detours.  I ask Him to shelter and protect me from things and people that will steal my time, energy, and efforts fruitlessly and aimlessly.  I ask Him for guidance and wisdom in seeing any red flags along my path so as to avoid anything and anyone that raises them.  Fourth, I ask Him to bless my efforts, my energies, and my time, and to bring fruitful blessing and profit from it.   And I exert much faith and hope that He hears me, and hasn't given up on me and my dreams.  

I saw a couple of quotes the other day that really stuck with me.  One was by Napoleon Hill and said, "A goal is a dream with a deadline."  I loved that.  No one accomplishes anything in life without deadlines. Dreams are just illusions without plans and deadlines.  Another said, "Look for the dream that keeps coming back.  It is your destiny."  There are a couple of "dreams" for which I am praying for my life right now.  They are things I desire greatly for God to bring to fruition and restoration in my life.  One prayer item is afflicting me so much that I find myself asking Him daily to just remove the desire if it is never going to happen or if my asking Him for it is in vain and void of any hope.  It's been nearly two years now and He just won't remove it.  It just keeps coming back--unwanted even, at times.  I believe there is a reason for this. I also fully believe that when someone has an ability or gift coupled with a big passion or desire to use it, there is a reason for that, too.  God gives both gifts and passions, and He desires to use those for our benefit and His glory.  He has big plans for each of us if we'll only trust Him on both the toll roads and detours of our lives.  He wants us to enjoy the journey, too.  Pray on...

Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Proverbs 16:9, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Psalms 34:7, "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."